I was blessed to read a study of the story of the prodigal son. When this story is told, the focus tends to be on the immature younger brother who squanders his inheritance yet is shown grace by a loving father. And while that story is great, there is another lesson to be learned, and it lies in the older brother. At the return of the younger son, the older son sits outside throwing himself a pity party. He complains to the father that he has ‘slaved’ for the father for years and hasn’t received the kind of treatment that the father is showing the wayward younger brother.
Pay close attention and at the end of the story you’ll see an older brother who is more concerned with possessions than with loving his brother or his father. You’ll see a boy who thought he was working for his father in order to gain possessions. And when he didn’t get the treatment he thought he deserved, he turns his back on his father, refusing to enter his father’s house.
And while many of us rather point the finger at all the prodigal sons in the world, we fail to realize that at times we can be the older brother, who was just as equally lost. We are in love with blessings, not the God who gives them, we are in love with things created, not the creator, we feel like our service to God has earned us rights and privileges and when we don’t receive what we think we’ve earned we turn our backs on God
This is a self-righteous mindset that must be broken. You have to remember….
1) Your righteousness counts for nothing. Among all the right you’ve done, you’ve done more wrong. There is non who does righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10). For ALL have fallen short (Romans 3:23). Ask around, not one female would agree to wear a stained dress on her wedding day. Pretend your righteousness is a white wedding gown. Whether the gown of your righteousness has a small stain of sin or is smeared with sin, neither gown is acceptable to wear before the Bridegroom, Jesus, when He comes to be joined to His bride, you the church. ALL need a Savior.
2) God does not owe you for your works. The wages of sin is death. As a sinner we have earned death, but He decided to show us mercy, and we have nerve to feel like He owes us. Better yet we have nerve to say that he treats us unfairly when we don’t get our way. If He were fair with us, we wouldn’t be able to bear the punishment.
3) We often trade intimacy with God for stuff. We expect blessings; we expect a certain lifestyle when we have been faithful to God. The real victim of the story is the father. He pleads with his bitter eldest son, saying that anything that the son has ever wanted he has given to him freely, the house he lives in, the farm they own, a promised inheritance. The son is so concerned with getting stuff, he doesn’t realize that he has a loving father and has gained his lost brother back. Much like us, we rather have stuff than have God. God freely gave us everything, His son, Himself through the Holy Spirit, and he will give us an inheritance in heaven. While we are on earth He is provider, shelter, lover, best friend, our strength, and life giver. Sometimes I feel that we choose stuff over God because we don’t know all that God can be for us. We don’t know all that God can be for us because we don’t know him intimately.
Sometimes I catch myself just doing the routine. I know that if I show up to some service events there will be perks, I’m gonna get a free t-shirt, a free meal, and get to chill with friends, a sure fire combo for a college student. I get so caught up in setting stuff up and working behind the scenes that I can go to church three times a week and not truly hear one message. We fall in love with the perks of serving, the physical perks or the praise. We fall in love with being part of leadership, become prideful of our faithfulness, drunk off the acknowledgment we receive. While in the midst of everything we lose intimacy with God. Pretty soon we expect the perks, we expect rewards for our service and faithfulness, we lose sight of who and why we do ministry. And unfortunately, because we expect and feel that we’ve earned blessings, the minute we don’t get them or the minute we feel God is holding back, we turn our backs on Him. Rejection of the Creator. Self-righteousness is deadly. We’re so busy looking for the prodigal son we miss the self-righteous son, remember both were equally lost.